Between silence and action: why I decided to start a hunger strike for Gaza

Between silence and action: why I decided to start a hunger strike for Gaza

Since the beginning of the war, Palestinian citizens have been paralyzed by the terror of persecution and have witnessed the massacre of our people in Gaza. I refuse to let fear paralyze me. A hunger strike is the non-violent, but most radical way to show solidarity with them.

A week ago I decided to start a time-limited hunger strike, which began on December 25 and was supposed to end on the 29th of this month.

After reflection and following conversations with people dear to me, I have decided to continue the strike until Wednesday, January 3, with a community call for a day of hunger strike/fasting in solidarity with our people at Gaza, and including a social media campaign under the hashtag: #Hunger strike for Gaza.

It took me two months to realize that I had no choice but to make this decision, that it had to be placed in a broader context, which was true even before the outbreak of war: for two years , and in particular since I was summoned to the Shin Bet investigation.

I was then summoned for questioning, because I had organized a demonstration against greenwashing, that is to say the planting of trees, with the aim of uprooting Bedouin families from Sawa, a Bedouin village not recognized in the southern Negev.

I realized that for two years, I had been displaced from the “street”, from the public space with which I identified. In the two years following the investigation, dissuasion and fear affected my political activity, which took on new nuances and opened a window onto what is not “the street”, which I did not know not before.

Fear paralyzed me, but I created new ways of doing things. I followed the “found and desired” method, which I didn’t believe in so much in the past, but which helped me map and examine what is there, what isn’t, and what I can do .

I found additional and new ways to continue the work, including leading political tours, participating in conversation clubs and political debates, bi-national meetings, and volunteer days at various socio-political venues and organizations . It helped me deal with fear, but not atone for it.

On October 7, we, the Arab-Palestinians of the State of Israel, were subjected to even stricter treatment and regime by the state, which adopted a draconian and arbitrary policy including citations to appear for investigations, wild and sudden arrests of all those who dared to speak out and display pro-Palestinian messages or even express their pain and identification with Gaza, as well as disciplinary summons to prosecute Palestinian students, supervision ethno-McCarthyist and political persecution also from members of the class.

This policy intensified as the war continued.

It can be considered an undeclared military government. We don’t know what’s allowed, because everything is forbidden and it’s best not to be smart for the many reasons I listed above.

It turns out that for the first time, we really didn’t do anything, because the fear is mythical and very real. In practice, we have helped the country reshape our self-image; we absorbed and internalized the fear without questioning it.

A human mystery, an unsolved problem

At the start of the war, it was clear that this was a tactical and strategic decision: two fronts, or “sections”, are enough (south and north), we do not need another section to inside Israel, that is to say us.

Slowly, and with the painful realization that the war is likely here to stay, our image has been reshaped, these Palestinian Arabs who are a human mystery in Israel and an unresolved problem.

But from all this emerges the enormous importance of the meaning inherent in the policy of silence and intimidation: the desire of the State to abolish the links which exist between the Palestinians of the State of Israel and those of Gaza. This cancellation is done, among other things, through silence, delegitimization and deactivation, both of our thoughts and our actions. In other words, it is impossible to identify with someone who is not Israeli and, in general, it is impossible to express pain for our people and the situation in Gaza.

This is a serious failure of the Israeli state to accept and contain the fact that many of us have blood ties, family, acquaintances and friends in Gaza, just as Israeli society handles currently the tragedy of the 1,400 people murdered, while it seems that there is a person in every family in Israel who is dealing with the loss of someone who was present at the B Nova’ party, or who was murdered at this place or in the southern colonies.

It is not for nothing that I mention in this context the investigation for which I was summoned, and the fear which accompanied me and which has intensified since then. It embodies deep policing, which leads to the internalization of paranoia, hysteria and the weakening of security and trust in the people around us.

Something that, to say the least, paralyzes and disintegrates at the individual, group and collective level, demonstrates how the policy of “divide and rule” functions to “organize” the fragmentation of the Palestinian people within the borders of the Green Line, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the diaspora.

This is one of the reasons that pushed me to start a hunger strike by default: the need not to give in to fear. I’m going on strike because I’m afraid of being afraid again without finding an answer. It is a need, not just a desire, to take back control of what I can still do.

A hunger strike is a non-violent way of protesting and resisting, while clearly refraining from eating and drinking. The strike is generally carried out against a backdrop of personal, social, political injustice, etc. It is often declared as a desperate, extreme and final step in the struggle in order to attract the attention of the public and authorities or to bring about a change in policy.

The second reason is the privilege I still have here and access to basic life resources: food, water, drink, electricity, a house, a roof over a roof.

This is the first time in my life that I have gone through a deep existential crisis and realized that my life is worth more than that of others. I have also decided to go on hunger strike to oppose the policy of starvation and its use as a legitimate tool of war.

Although the word “morality” is foreign to the current war, we must nevertheless firmly oppose the policy of starvation that Israel applies to the inhabitants of Gaza.

The siege and fighting in Gaza has caused a sharp decline in electricity and fuel supplies, making it impossible to heat and prepare food or transport flour and staples to bakeries. At the end of October, UNRA already reported that a fifth of the bakeries in the Gaza Strip could not operate due to lack of fuel and flour, or because they had been bombed.

A week later, in early November, the UN reported that there were no longer any bakeries operating in Gaza. According to Oxfam reports, Israel has used “starvation” as a weapon of war against civilians in Gaza since the start of the war, while only 2% of the food supposed to enter the Strip enters due to the tightening of the blockade.

As a result, millions of Gaza citizens are subject to collective punishment in front of the entire world. The situation is getting worse day by day. Gaza’s children are suffering severe trauma from constant bombing, their drinking water is contaminated or limited, and soon families will no longer be able to feed their children at all.

During the first two months of the war, it was impossible to protest the attack on Gaza. Today, there are organizations, but no independent initiative from Palestinian society inside Israel has yet been presented. The question of silence or action has been with me since the start of the war, and especially during the last two weeks.

As I write this article, I am on the ninth day of the hunger strike I started. My action was born from the fear of succumbing to silence. It is the most non-violent, but most radical form of solidarity with my people in Gaza.

For me, this is the most extreme attempt to unite and unite (Arabic for the word “تلاحم” flesh) with the sons and daughters of my people in Gaza. I see this strike as a transcendental attempt to feel pain. This is not a masochistic need; I try to rise above the current context and connect to what is happening in Gaza, but also to feel the pain of the hundreds of thousands of starving people and those who have already died of hunger and other political-climatic reasons under the auspices of Israel.

Yara Shahin Grabella

French Jewish Union for Peace

(J and D translation)